Reliance heir Akash Ambani says his family has taught him to stay simple, but dream big. Excerpts from his first media interview to Hello! magazine…
Completely in tune with the ambitious Reliance Jio Info comm Limited (RJIL)’s 4G venture today , it’s surprising to hear that a short while ago, Akash Ambani wasn’t keen on coming back to India. “I wanted to work in the US,” he says.
“But last year when my dad was visiting, he asked me what I use the internet for and I said to read, learn and gain knowledge. He said, wouldn’t you like to provide that knowledge to 1.2 billion Indians? He explained the project to me, and I decided this is what I want to do.”
Heir to Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), Akash doesn’t appear intimidated by his formidable legacy in his first-ever media interview. “I wouldn’t say it weighs on me.
“It motivates me,” says the 22-year-old son of Nita and Mukesh D Ambani. Back in India last year after a Bachelors in Economics from Brown University, he claims technology is his passion. “So far my experience (at Jio) has been incredible. It’s a lifetime opportunity to contribute to one of the largest rollouts of digital services in the world,” he says.
Scions of business families work their way up and it is no different with the Ambanis. At age 24, current chairman and managing director of RIL Mukesh Ambani learnt the fundamentals of the group’s flagship petrochemicals business by shadowing his father, the late Dhirubhai Ambani. Akash is being similarly mentored.
“My dad is very keen I sit through all critical meetings and learn the ropes of the business from the beginning. He feels this is the best education for me,” says Akash.
Born to India’s richest man, Akash credits his mother for his grounded personality. “She has instilled in us simplicity. It is from her that we learned to respect and value money. In school days, the pocket money we used to get was a pittance as compared to our friends. Even while studying at Brown, all the expenses used to go through her,” he claims.
Mom Nita sparkles while talking about her son. “My boy has finally grown into a man. I don’t believe it… he is giving his first interview as a businessman. It is such a proud moment for me as a mother,” she says smilingly, adding, “Akash is very sensi tive and emotional and relates with people very well. He has many of his father’s qualities and it’s great to see that in him.”
Life in Mumbai is mostly work for Akash, who has a five day week at the Navi Mumbai office, 50 km from his house on Altamount Road. When he does unwind on weekends, he enjoys watching movies with his dad. “We watch at least 2-3 movies a week. I think we have seen almost every movie released,” he says.
An avid cricketer, he’s been closely involved with the family-owned IPL franchise Mumbai Indians. Akash is a serious footie fan too, and he reveals he’s excited about his involvement in the Indian Super League (ISL) to promote soccer in India. “In sport, there is a new learning: how to deal with people in a way that a boardroom will not teach me,” he says. Sailing, watching documentaries and photography are other passions.
What Akash cherishes most, however, is time with family — including twin sister Isha, who is working with McKinsey in New York, and younger brother Anant, now at Brown. They may be in three different cities of the world, but the siblings remain connected. “Isha and I share a special bond. Anant understands me best: it’s amazing,” he says. When they’re all home, they always have dinner together. “This is something my grandfather ensured and we still follow. Sundays are special,” he says.
Akash was just a boy when Dhirubhai Ambani passed away, but he recalls some sweet memories. “All of us cousins spent Sundays with him, and when he walked in the garden I used to accompany him,” Akash says, recalling they both loved eating gur papri. Dhirubhai also left his grandson with some life-lessons.
“He used to say, ‘Money lost can be earned again, but lost time is lost forever. So use your time judiciously,'” Akash recalls, adding dad Mukesh has also shared words of wisdom. “He always says trust people and they will trust you. And business can grow only in an environment of trust and respect.”
These learnings help Akash navigate today. “Both taught me to dream big, aim high but to not forget humility and individual connections is critical.”